Stump of a Muffin

Your Business Website – Own What You Pay For

Ever hear the expression you “get what you paid for”?  Well, on the Internet that’s not always true.  My point is there are several cases that cross my desk each week where business owners – at all levels – that do not get what they paid an Internet expert to deliver.  Far fetched?  Not really.  Most of these business relationships start without a written commitment by either party.  Let me explain.

If you were about to sell your home a REALTOR would quickly produce a listing contract.  “I promise to do this, that and these things.  You promise to pay me $ if I come through and affect the sale of your home.”  You both sign it.  Done.  You visit the oil change shop.  “We will change the oil, check this – that – those – and replace the filter.  Should cost $.  Initial here.  Sign here.  Ok, here’s a paper to read until we’re done.”  You know exactly what to expect.  Usually you know what the cost and delivery date(s) will be.

Now the time comes to invest in the Internet.  You’ve decided to your business can benefit from being exposed to the ‘web’.  The reasoning could be a simple as sharing your business hours or directions to your establishment, or, you’ve decided the world can’t live any longer without your collection of homemade movies and you’re going to sell them.  Let’s go!

For this discussion we will assume that you have decided to hire a web developer.  Someone who will see your site through from beginning to end.  A general contractor.  This contractor could be the ‘front person’ for an organization or they might be a ‘one horse’ operation performing every task on their own.  Regardless, you are now about to put your trust ( read that money ) in the hands of this web developer.  Before you do:

What questions to ask the during the web developer interview.

  • Can you show me your portfolio? This is no different than asking a potential employee if they have any work experience.
  • May I contact any of those listed on the portfolio page(s)? Again, very common hiring practice to contact references.
  • Do you contract out any of the work? You want to know if the person or firm you’re hiring is actually doing the work.  As the Internet has no borders you could be hiring a front man for one of the sweatshops off shore.

What level of control should you expect in regards to ownership: domain name, content, design, data.

  • Domain Name – www.MyDomainName.com who owns that?  Visit a WHOIS [ http://whois-service.com/ ] service to find out if your name and contact information is on the registry.  Depending on your agreement – or contract – you may be leasing the domain name instead of owning.
  • Design – there are many design companies that will claim copyright of a design; and they have a legal claim unless you’ve both agreed to who owns what.  Very often there is no contract when these types of business relationships commence.  This ambiguity leaves those with “9/10th’s” of the law on their side.  What I mean is if the designer has the original source files ( images, copy, etc. ) then they have possession of your website.
  • Content – page copy and imagery.  Imagery would include any type of animation ( Flash ) or logo.
  • Data – as simple as a grocery list or involved as a voice over IP telephony system.  Who owns it?  Make sure you do.  A very interesting aspect of this point is to differentiate between data and the data management framework.  The data ( name, numbers, prices, etc. ) are wholly one.  The data management system will almost certainly belong to the developer unless otherwise stipulated.

Making your investment cost practical when deciding how to apply your online marketing dollars.

  • SEO – most professional website developers work to a standard search engine optimization.  Even so, a reasonable budget should be considered for consultation with an SEO before, during and after the development of your site.
  • Cross Media PromotionGoogle will not find you the week of your site being launched. It is highly recommended that you promote your site outside of the Internet.  Anywhere within budget.
  • Social Media – Twitter, Facebook and many ( many ) more exist.  Most are free.  Most will consume your entire day if you let them.  ( There is a growing market for those who offer consultation related to this aspect. )

The most important components of a strong business website.

  • Tell your story. The good and the bad.  Share the anecdote of how you overcame the grumpy customer or impressed the ‘hell out of’ a loyal client by remembering their birthday ( even if it is your mom ).
  • Keep your content evolving. People love to read current events.  I don’t know anyone who reads the same newspaper over and over again.
  • Trust. Conceive your entire presentation being one of trust.  Ages ago – in Internet terms this means more than five years – e-commerce was struggling because of the lack of trust.  Even so sales online were in the hundreds of millions.  Today the current estimate puts online sales into the billions.  This estimate will not contain the sales resulted in from a professional site drawing customers to your ‘brick and mortar’ storefront.

Self-administration or self-destruction of your website – who’s in control?  All of the above leads us to the best use of your time.  ( Short anecdote:  when we first set out at [ radarhill.com ] it was quickly obvious that there were more talented people than us in the business and that doing 100 things ‘ok’ was not impressive.  We hired the ‘more talented’ and thinned our line of offerings to 10-12 things we did awesomely. )

  • If you are opting for a site with self-administrative tools schedule time to make this happen.  That’s just good time management.
  • Do not take on tasks that are beyond your skill set or the tools offered by the CMS.
  • Do not let your site take over your life.
  • Do not rely entirely on the Internet to make you rich.  Diversify.  You owe the world that much.  Get out there and communicate belly to belly, email to email, social media – make it happen.

Here’s an excellent idea for using social media:

For Twitter, timed coupons, eg:   http://twitter.com/Rod_Phillips is a “Buyer for the Liquor Plus chain of Liquor Stores on Vancouver Island” and he tweets stuff like:  “TWEET DEAL:1st 25 replies or RT’s gets 1 6 pack of Hornsby Amber Draft Cider for $6 (reg. $16).”  Rod has found that when people pick up this loss leader, they also buy other things, so it is very profitable for him. Naked Pizza in US does something similar on Twitter, has huge success. Good for a company that can do time limited coupons.

Glossary:

  • Website Developer – A developer of websites.  Not all that different than a land developer only this person’s realm is the Internet.
  • Designer – The person or firm that conceives of the design of a site.  This is not limited to colours and layout.  A site design would also include several of the elementary components or architecture:  navigation menus, imagery, logos, etc.
  • Site – A website.  http://google.com is a site.  Same as http://tsn.ca.
  • Coder – This person or firm will take the work of a designer and make the design a site.  Most commonly this task includes several important aspects which may include:  JavaScript, static or dynamic content,
  • SEO – search engine optimization.  A specialized task of ensuring that your Internet display is up to standard and follows the current techniques for placement.
  • CMS – content management system.
  • Social media – all the rage these days.  Don’t let it eat you alive.  What social media is – or was meant to be – was a socialized environment for networking.  Yes, good old fashioned networking.

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